Friday, August 29, 2014

A Random Act of Kindness

So, there was this teapot.

My friend Danny, who sells all kinds of interesting things via Facebook, had a teapot I loved. I mostly buy from him for resale, but this particular teapot was going to find a home in my kitchen. As soon as I saw it on Danny's site, I commented that I wanted it. And that usually is enough for him to hold it for me, because the rule is that the first to comment gets the item. I was first, and I scored. I was happy!

And then inexplicably my comment was gone. When I looked again another lady who also buys a lot from Danny had asked for the teapot. What! I couldn't believe it. But then I remembered that it had happened before. The internet is a tricky and unreliable place at times, and my comments had disappeared before when I posted on something I wanted to buy.

Ah, me. I let Danny know what happened, complained to my hubby about it, and then forgot about it. Stuff happens and there's no use crying over spilled milk, right? But I sure liked that teapot.

Yesterday I got a message from the Riverbend Antique Mall that someone had left a package there for me. Who was it from, I asked? No idea, they said. It was left as a "random act of kindness."

Really! Now I was curious. I like to do those things myself from time to time, but when it's done to me, it's surprising in a good way. So today I headed to the mall to do a little restocking and to pick up my mystery gift.

Well, you know what it was. It was the teapot I had wanted, beautifully wrapped and bagged.

There are good people out there. Small things do make a difference. I learned something else too. I learned that I need to just let things go more easily, and not stress over small stuff like a teapot.

But tomorrow morning I will be making my breakfast tea in my new teapot, and every time I see it I will smile and remember the lady who gave me both a gift and a lesson.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Apple Thoughts

Of the many foods that we grow, apples have to be the most basic and most versatile of staples. How many other foods can you grow that can supply you with so many uses?

It begins with the blossoms, heavenly-scented and lovely  in the landscape or in flower arrangements. With the coming of summer the Lodi summer apples ripen and are ready to puree into tangy sauce. Apple cake, apple pie, apple cookies, apple bars, and apple candy are just a few of the sweet treats to be made with apples. They can be made into dumplings or added to pancakes. They can be jellied, jammed, candied, sauced, sliced, dried, fried, baked and broiled. Apples add flavor to stuffing, tartness to pork dishes, a sweet topping for chicken. I often make pickled crabapples, which are actually more candied than pickled, tasty and pretty as garnish on meats. Apples add crunch and flavor to salads and there is nothing quite as good as eating an apple straight from the tree.

Two of my favorite ways to use apples are old-time traditions—apple butter and apple cider. We get the cider press ready in September, gather jars and wash tubs and straining cloth and wait for a good day to get underway. Sometimes we put the cider in jugs and freeze it; if the freezer is full, I process the cider in jars and store it in the cellar. Both methods produce sweet, tangy juice that is as good with breakfast as orange juice, and a lot less expensive.

Apple butter requires a couple days’ work. My kettle is a 15-gallon one, so we only need about 3 or 4 bushels of apples to fill it. I cook the apples into sauce in the house first, as I was taught by my neighbor Belva. The next day we pour the sauce into the kettle and start the stirring down process, which usually takes about five hours. In the end we have thirty quarts of rich, spicy apple butter.

We all know an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but did you know that if you count the number of seeds in an apple you will know how many children you will have? Or that if you say the names of five or six people of the opposite sex as you twist an apple’s stem, the name you say as the stem breaks is the one you will marry? (None of these have been tested by me, so I can’t vouch for their accuracy!) You can also use the sprouts that you trim from the apple tree to make a pretty wreath. Hang it over your door for good luck.

If you have old apple trees on your property, consider this story before cutting them down:
There once was a farmer who had an apple tree in his field that had stopped bearing fruit. “Might as well cut it down,” the farmer said. “It’s only usefulness now is to heat our house this winter.”

“But it blooms so beautifully in the spring,” his wife protested. “And see how many birds nest in its branches? It makes a fine home for them. Just listen to their happy singing.”

“No, it only takes up space. I will cut it,” the farmer decided. He grabbed his axe and walked out to the tree. The birds continued to sing but the farmer paid no attention to them. He struck the tree with a mighty blow, then another. The axe bit into the center of the tree with the third swing, and out of the tree flowed golden honey, from a hive hidden in the tree’s hollow center.

“Why, this tree is full of bees and honey! I will not cut such a tree; it serves a worthy purpose.” From that day on, the farmer treated the old apple tree with respect, and took care of its health until the end of his days.

And then of course, there is the simplest use of apple trees of all--just climbing up them!

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pickles, Ghosts, Washers and Such

I am being buried in pickles! It seems like every time I turn around Larry brings in another five-gallon bucket full. I made another 14 quarts yesterday and a new bucket awaits me today. Tomatoes are also coming in by the buckets and I'll be working on those today. All this bounty is glorious, and I am trying to get it all put up as quickly as I can. Being sick last week put me behind and I feel like a hamster on a wheel trying to catch up.

I am so excited about the new project I've been working on: the Ripley (WV) ghost walk! I have found quite a few stories and now have a source for more in a stack of old newspapers. A local business man also told me several good stories about his building when I stopped in the other day. We're hoping for grant funding for this project; I spent yesterday evening alternating between the pickles and working on wording for the grant. I think the pickles may have suffered from being left in the water bath too long, because when I get started writing I lose track of time.

Stories for the ghost walk so far include two hangings (one quite famous, the other lesser known), a drowned preacher, disturbances in old buildings, lost treasure and much more. I can't wait to dig into those newspapers to see what else I can find. We mapped out the route yesterday; it will be about one mile with only one slight incline, and out of the main traffic routes for the most part. I ordered a small voice amplifier last night for this project,one that I can easily carry. I think it's going to be a lot of fun.

Speaking of ghosts, I think my washing machine is about to become one. It made  sound like a death rattle the other day and now it won't spin. Larry is going to pull it out and look at it to see if it's just something stuck somewhere but if it's really toast then we already have a lead on another new-to-us machine.

I have finally gone back to the local writing group after a two-year absence. I am hoping to get back to doing more creative writing (stories and poems) but right now the gardens and other projects are not allowing much free time for it. It's been nice to see the other members and hear what they've been up to. Some good novels seem to be in the works--one for middle-grade students, the other for adults. We also have one poet, one lady who is a preacher and works on her spiritual writings, a poet and short story writer and me. Others come and go so it's an eclectic gathering of styles for sure.

Back to the kitchen and the tomatoes this morning! I hope you day goes well and that you are well and busy too.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.
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